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Preterm Birth Rate Continues to be High in Detroit

— February 13, 2020

Detroit’s preterm birth rate still high despite Make Your Date program.

The City of Detroit’s preterm birth rate is now at a 13-year high, according to data collected and recently released by the State of Michigan.  This revelation comes not too long after Mayor Mike Duggan’s backing of what he referred to as “the largely successful” Make Your Date program’s efforts to fight the same issue.  The March of Dimes recently ranked Detroit the second-worst city nationally for its preterm birth rate in 2017.  At 14.3%, it had the second-highest preterm birth rate of 100 cities studied.  Cleveland was first on the list with a preterm birth rate of 14.5%, according to the organization’s data.

“We picked the right program,” Duggan said of Make Your Date at an October 2019 conference. “The program has worked and there is no finding anywhere in this report that says Make Your Date doesn’t work, that a dollar was misspent or says that this wasn’t the right program.”

“Women who received services from WSU via the Make Your Date program experienced a reduction of up to 37% in preterm births,” Eli Savit, senior adviser and counsel to Duggan, echoed the major’s words, writing to Inspector General Ellen Ha on behalf of Duggan and other city officials.

The mayor’s claims about the program’s im,pact were pulled from a Wayne State University study that analyzed data from 1,945 women who participated in the program in 2014 and 2015, which has not yet been published.

Preterm Birth Rate Continues to be High in Detroit
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

“Our study showed evidence that the Make Your Date program reduces the rate of early preterm delivery in the population studied,” Wayne State professor of obstetrics and gynecology Adi Tarca said. “However, the Make Your Date program has only reached a fraction of women in the city.  In order to make a significant impact on the rate of preterm birth in the entire city of Detroit, the program would need to be expanded.”

Socioeconomic obstacles experienced by many Detroit women, such as lack of access to prenatal care and health insurance, as well as implicit bias, may be a contributing factor.  “Inequity, poverty, racism and discrimination also are driving factors,” according to Michigan’s Mother Infant Health and Equity Improvement Plan.  Of the 9,476 births in Detroit in 2019, 1,451 babies were born prematurely.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) found, “Both the white and black infant mortality rates remained about the same in recent years, with a persistent racial disparity in which African American mother’s experienced 3 times the risk of an infant death compared to white mothers.”

“It is very concerning,” Dr. Ray Bahado-Singh, chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Beaumont Health, said of the city’s rank. “But changing those dynamics is a decades-long and generational commitment.  So, I believe progress will continue to be incremental and, in my view, explains why the prematurity rate is so high in Detroit because as everyone knows, there’s really a significant disparity in Michigan, most particularly in Detroit.”

Kara Hamilton-McGraw, director of maternal child health and government affairs for March of Dimes in Michigan, explained, “These rates are not acceptable, but I believe we can find a rejuvenated hope.  What I see in WIN Network and other programs such as Make Your Date, the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Coalition in Detroit, these programs are looking to provide wraparound services.  And we’re seeing that addressing the woman as a whole, and not just a pregnancy, is really having fantastic outcomes.”

Dawn Shanafelt, director of the Division of Maternal and Infant Health at MDHHS, added, “Premature births and low birth weight babies are the primary drivers to infant mortality.  So, it’s a critical focus area and a serious public health concern.”




As Mayor Mike Duggan touts Make Your Date’s success, Detroit’s preterm birth rate spikes

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